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With the rapid expansion of mobile internet, online education is undergoing radical transformation with more mobile learners studying while on-the-go to make the best use of their fragmented free time. The increase of smart device penetration, WiFi and broadband connection and software is making mobile learning (or m-learning) an increasingly popular sector for users.

As the online education craze in China lures VC money, more startups focused on this sector have emerged in the past year. Let’s take a look at some aspects of the m-learning market in China, as presented in a report jointly released by online education site Hujiang and Baidu Education in October this year.

Who

Mobile learning users have an unbalanced gender ratio, with 58.4% female and 41.6% male. Users aged between 19-30 account for 70.2% of the total students, indicating that college students or graduates who just started their career are the most active mobile learners. The 31-40 and 15-18 age groups follow, to account for 14.1% and 10.3% of users respectively.

MLearning-1Mobile Learner Distribution by Age

Most mobile learners have received higher education and use mobile learning as a way to further their studies. Junior college or university students account for 32.8%  of users while white collar workers represent 20.5%.

In terms of geographical distribution, second-tier cities take nearly half at 44.7%, while first-tier, third-tier and fourth-tier cities account for 26.5%, 18.1% and 8.8% of the total respectively.

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What

Language learning dominates the m-learning market with an 89.3% market share, driven by the huge English learning demand in China. The share for other courses are: interests (27.3%), occupational tests (13.8%), techniques (13.5%), test prep for overseas study (7.6%), CGAT (China Graduate Admission Test) (6.9%), primary education (6.6%), marketing and management (3.1%), pre-school education (2.0%) and others (0.9%). 

How

Desktop PCs, which represent 69% of the market, are still the most important means for students to get access to online courses, but smartphones are catching up rapidly to account for 65%, while tablets account for 14%. The utilization rate of smartphone is higher in lower tier cities.

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Apple users constitute a major part of smartphone m-learners, accounting for 30% of the total, while Samsung and Xiaomi follow to account for 15.8% and 14.5%, respectively.

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How Much

Although the free-to-play or free-to-learn mindset is still prevalent in China, as reflected by the report that 27.3% of the users in the survey want free services, the Chinese payment behavior is gradually changing with 29.1% willing to pay more than RMB500 (US$82) for services they receive per year.

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